More than a dozen dead after quake rocks Indonesia's Mulaku

Official says at least 20 dead and 100 injured after magnitude-6.5 earthquake hits the eastern Maluku Islands.

    People help an injured woman in Ambon in Indonesia's Maluku islands, after the area was stuck by an earthquake on Thursday  [Aisyah Putri/AFP]
    People help an injured woman in Ambon in Indonesia's Maluku islands, after the area was stuck by an earthquake on Thursday [Aisyah Putri/AFP]

    A strong earthquake has destroyed buildings and triggered landslides in the Maluku Islands in Indonesia's east on Thursday morning, leaving at least 20 people dead.

    "The total number of people who died in the earthquake is 20," Agus Wibowo, spokesman for the national disaster agency, said in a statement on Thursday. 

    "At least 100 people were injured and more than 2,000 evacuated," he added.

    The magnitude 6.5 quake hit the islands at approximately 8:45am (00:45 GMT) on Thursday. 

    Terrified people ran into the streets as buildings collapsed around them in Ambon, a city of about 400,000 people.  

    Residents were seen helping injured people in blood-stained clothes, while images showed wrecked homes with collapsed walls and rubble strewn on the ground, the AFP news agency said.

    "The impact was felt across Ambon city and surrounding areas," said Rahmat Triyono, head of the earthquake and tsunami division at Indonesia's Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysical Agency (BMKG). 

    "Many people were woken up by the shaking... it felt like a truck was passing by."

    The area was hit by at least two dozen aftershocks, including one that measured 5.6 magnitude, Triyono said.

    Albert Simaela, a local disaster official, told the Associated Press that parts of a building at a university collapsed, while a main hospital in the city had also been damaged. Patients were evacuated to outdoor tents in the hospital's yard, he said. 

    'No Tsunami risk'

    The earthquake was centred 37 kilometres northeast of Ambon at a depth of 29 kilometres, according to the US Geological Survey.

    Indonesia - Maluku
    A resident in his collapsed house after Thursday's magnitude 6.5 earthquake [Aisyah Putri/AFP]

    BMKG's Triyono said the earthquake did not have the potential to cause a tsunami, but witnesses told television stations that people along coastal areas ran to higher ground in fear one might occur.

    "The tremor was so strong, causing us to pour into the streets," said Musa, an Ambon resident who uses a single name. He said there was no damage or injuries in his neighbourhood, but he said people on social media chatted about damage elsewhere in the city.

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    The national disaster mitigation agency said authorities were still gathering information about the impact of the earthquake. 

    With a population of about 1.7 million, Maluku is one of Indonesia's least populous provinces.

    Indonesia, home to more than 260 million people, is prone to earthquakes and volcanic eruptions due to its location along the "Ring of Fire," the string of seismic faults around the Pacific Ocean.

    In September 2018, Palu, on the island of Sulawesi west of Maluku, was devastated by a 7.5-magnitude earthquake and a powerful tsunami it unleashed, killing more than 4,000 people.

    In 2004, a quake off Sumatra island triggered a tsunami across the Indian Ocean that killed 226,000 in 14 countries, more than 120,000 of them in Indonesia.

    SOURCE: News agencies